Electricity is one the important means of human life. From lighting a bulb in the darkness to charging your phones everything works with electricity. Have you ever seen thunder lighting in the sky if yes, that is the example of electricity but what is electricity and how does electricity work…
What is electricity?
Electricity is the movement of charged atomic particles called electrons or it is just the flow of electrons in a conductor. Moving electrons create the powerful lightening strike, they also light up your room when you ON the switch. Electrons are tiny negatively charged particles that orbit around Atoms. A battery is a chemical device designed to create the force needed to move electron. Conductors usually metals like copper provide a path for the electrons to flow on. Electrons have a negative charge they travel out of the minus (–) end of the battery and are attracted to the plus (+) end. Attach a metal conductor to each end of a battery and electrons begin to flow from minus-to-plus. Flowing electrons are called current and is measured in Amperes. The force moving the electrons is voltage and is measured in Volts.
How does electricity work?
In order to understand energy, we first need to start at the source; literally Mother Nature provides the natural resource we used to generate power. From natural gas to coal, ocean tides to mountain winds the energy we need to create electricity must first be mined, harnessed or collected from the earth. Some of these resources are finite including fossil fuels like coal and oil. But others are unlimited like solar or wind power but a lump of coal or a strong breeze alone won’t create the power that turns on your light. For every energy source a chemical or mechanical processes required to turn it into usable electricity.
Every day researchers work to find innovative ways to use our limited resources, process raw materials, harness renewable more efficiently and find entirely new energy sources. Today the majority of America’s electricity comes from thermal power plants. Fuels like coal, natural gas, biomass in uranium are used to heat water until it produces steam which powers a turbine and generates electricity. That steam turns propeller like blades around the rotor inside the turbine. This turning rotor connects to a main shaft which spins magnets with the coil inside a generator. It’s the generator inside the turbine that converts mechanical energy into electric energy and create electricity. Steam is an efficient method of producing electricity because the water can be recycled and reused as it changes back and forth between liquid and gaseous States.
Transporting electricity from the power plant to your home is an entirely different process. Current technology cannot cost-effectively store large amounts of electricity. So significant challenges exist when it comes to transferring the electricity across the long distances. So, just enough electricity has to be generated to meet demand at all times and be transmitted through power lines to reach your light switch. Too much or too little power can crash the transmission system and cause a blackout. That’s why a complex mix of logistics management and infrastructure is needed to transmit electricity from power generators to consumers.
The electricity grid also known as simply the grid, the North American electricity grid is actually made up of four large grid systems: the western grid, the eastern grid, the Texas grid and a grid covering the Canadian province of Quebec. These independent regional networks of power plants and transmission lines carry electric energy at high voltage within their area to local utilities. There are very limited links between the four grids which means electricity generated from a wind turbine in West Texas cannot reach an apartment building in the US city.
For electricity to move through one of the four grades its voltage must first be increased by device called a transformer then the electricity can travel long distances across high voltage transmission lines. These high voltage lines are generally strong between giant metal towers. They stretch for miles from power plants to local substations in each neighborhood. You’ve probably seen substations along the side of the road and wonder what they do. Well their job is stepping down electric voltages from levels as high as 765,000 volts closer to the 110 volts we use in our home. The electricity from the power line on your street passes through another transformer which steps down the voltage once more and then it travels along the line into your house. From there the electricity enters your breaker box and it is then distributed to light sockets in outlets all you have to do is flip a switch so as you can see from the raw materials to the power lines on your street there’s so much more to the electricity ecosystem than meets the eye.